Bravo for Bill Cosby

Posted: May 25, 2004 12:00 AM

 Bill Cosby has provided a lot of laughs for millions of Americans over the years but black "leaders" were not laughing after he lashed out at those black parents who buy their children expensive sneakers instead of something educational. He also denounced both those children and those adults in the black community who refuse to speak the king's English.

 "Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads," Cosby said. "You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth." He also mocked those who referred to "the incarcerated" as "political prisoners."

 At this gathering on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, some in the audience laughed and applauded but the pillars of the black "leadership" establishment -- the head of the NAACP, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the president of Howard University -- were "stone-faced," according to the Washington Post.

 Theodore Shaw of the Legal Defense Fund then "told the crowd that most people on welfare are not African Americans, and many of the problems his organizations has addressed in the black community were not self-inflicted."

 Other groups are not perfect -- but is that an excuse for doing self-destructive things?

 Bill Cosby and the black "leadership" represent two long-standing differences about how to deal with the problems of the black community. The "leaders" are concerned with protecting the image of blacks, while Cosby is trying to protect the future of blacks, especially those of the younger generation.

 Far from just bashing blacks, Cosby has given generously to promote black education. But he is still old-fashioned enough to think that others need to take some responsibility for using the opportunities that were gained for them by "people who marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education."

 Now, in too many black communities, dedicating yourself to getting an education is called "acting white."

 These are painful realities and they do not become any less real or any less painful by hushing them up. Nobody enjoys being made to look bad in public. But too many in the black community are preoccupied with how things will look to white people, with what in private life would be concern about "what will the neighbors think?"

 When your children are dying, you don't worry about what the neighbors think. When the whole future of a race is jeopardized by self-destructive fads, you put public relations on the back burner.

 There are still whites out there who think that blacks are innately incapable of achievement -- and some of them support affirmative action for that reason. But there is plenty of evidence that innate ability, or even developed mental skills, are not the big problem.

 Not only blacks with low test scores, but even blacks with high test scores, do not do as well academically as whites with the same test scores. Among Asian Americans, it is just the opposite. They do better than whites with the same test scores, whether in educational institutions or in economic activities.

 Years ago, Cosby urged a group of young blacks to put more effort into their studies, the way Asian students do. "Do you know why they are called Asians?" he asked. "Because they always get A's."

 The differences among all these groups are in one four-letter word that you are still not supposed to say: work.

 Anyone who has taught black, white, and Asian students will know that they do not work equally. Studies show it but you don't need studies. Just go into a university library on a Saturday night and see who is there and who is not there.

 In some places, you might think it was an all-Asian university, judging by the students in the library on Saturday night.

 How surprised should you be when you go into a classroom on Monday morning and find out who is on top of the work and who is struggling to keep up?

 What Bill Cosby said was no laughing matter. It is closer to being something to cry about.